Category Archives: gender diversities

Meet Mauro Cabral

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Argentinian historian and philosopher and trans and intersex activist. Mauro Cabral is co-director of GATE (Global Action for Trans Equality) and member of the Latin American Consortium on Intersex Issues (Consorcio Latinoamericano de Trabajo sobre Intersexualidad).

Statistically, situations related to intersexuality have place in one over 2,500 births. Every time a child whose sexual and reproductive anatomy varies from both male and female bodily standards is born, his o her body is forced into surgical and hormonal treatments aimed to ‘normalize’ the appearance of his or her genitals. Among the international frameworks on Human Rights, at present only the not binding Yogyakarta Principles make a specific call for States “to ensure that no child’s body is irreversibly altered by medical procedures in an attempt to impose a gender identity without the full, free and informed consent of the child in accordance with the age and maturity of the child and guided by the principle that in all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration”. in their article 18 on “Protection from Medical Abuses”

In what sense is intersex children’s genital mutilation a feminizing procedure?

The majority of the different interventions done to normalize intersex children’s bodies are addressed to create female genitals because from a medical point of view they are technologically easier to make than male genitals.

Is it also a political issue?

In medicine it is basically a technical issue which, from the intersex activism is remitted also to the running of stereotypes that have to do with the fact that sexuality and the male gender are intrinsically dependent on the existence of a functional penis and that it is therefore easier to become a woman than a man if there is not a male body sustaining such masculinity. However, the issue could be seen the other way around and think that masculinity is more fragile because it has more requirements… These are activist interpretations on decisions doctors make without them appearing in an explicit way.

According to the International intersex Organization (oii) the correct definition should not be children’s genital mutilation but non-consensual normalization treatment, a term that also includes hormonal therapy and virilising surgery. How do you see it?

They are rhetorical choices. Talking of mutilation has a stronger ethical political impact and allows connecting this intervention with other practices such as female genital mutilation.  Mutilation refers to something that cuts not only each person’s possibilities but also the possibilities that each culture has to recognize the body diversity of its members.

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Between sexuality, gender and rights: A story from Sub-Saharan Africa

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Both the majority of worldwide countries  (38 out of 76) criminalizing same-sex sexual activities and the one with the first constitution in the world to explicitly prohibit unfair discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (South Africa) belong to the African continent.

Last month the first ever African Same Sex Sexualities and Gender Diversity (ASSGD) conference took place in Pretoria, South Africa. A country that in these matters has carried out some other legal steps that constitute records world-wide. In 2006 it became the fifth country in the world –and the first in the continent- to legalise same-sex marriages and it is one of the few countries where it is explicitly permitted to change gender on official documents (the others are Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Argentina).

“The reality on the ground is very different from the laws”, says He-Jin Kim, the representative at the conference of GenderDynamiX, a South African Human Rights organisation dedicated to promoting the rights of transgender people and one of the organizers of the event.

“The so called ‘corrective rape’ of lesbians is very common in black townships in South Africa. Besides, while the law allows changing gender without the need for actual surgery its implementation is lacking and it is rare that transgender people succeed in accessing this legal provision. There is also little access to transgender related healthcare and in light of the gravity of the HIV epidemic in South Africa, it must be noted that sexual health services are for the most part inaccessible to transgender people due to prevailing stigma and ignorance”, she says.

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Meet Nadia Ghulam

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Farmer, stock-breeder, wells builders, water seller, owner of a bicycle’s repair-shop, Mullah’s assistant and occasional religious police, even cook for one day for a group of Talibans. All this was Nadia Ghulam during the ten years she was a boy. The happy little girl with her long circling skirt she had been had left the day a bomb had hit her house in Kabul burning the 60 percent of her body. She was eight years old then, or at least that’s what she guesses. Nadia doesn’t remember very well those two years she spends her time half inside and half outside the hospital. “But I do remember Mujahideen bursting into the houses taking us in –and even into the hospital- and forcing us to leave, the pain of my wounds, the fact of being homeless and always starving and the voice of the bombs”.

While her mother is always with her two younger sisters, her elder brother and her father live with an aunt of theirs or they sort out their lives. When they have no house and Nadia is out of the hospital, they go to people’s houses, first families, then strangers, or sleep in shelters. “It is curious, and also a little sad”, she says between bites of melanzane (aubergines) alla parmigiana I then find out not to be only an Italian but also an Afghan typical dish (the latter use goose cheese instead of mozzarella and parmesan). “Here in Spain I read Anne Frank’s diary. She explained how it was I don’t know whose birthday, that they had made a cake and then had it…I kept thinking: unbelievable. Because during war there are no cakes”, she says. “She also explained they used to have vegetables and we never did”.

Nadia is around ten years old. Her father tells her and her mother that her teenage brother, Zelmai, was shot in the streets and is not working in Pakistan as they had been thinking for more than a year. “I then understood why my father had little by little stopped living. He was his pride”. Almost simultaneously Soraya, her doctor’s assistant, tells her that with the arrival of the Taliban women won’t be able to work. “I thought, so what am I going to do? If my father is ill, my brother isn’t here and my mother is like that, what are we going to eat? I have always been a person who relieves in her own things and who doesn’t like other people’s help. I say, if this person works and has his things, why can’t I have mine? I cannot be waiting for the others, you know?”

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Meet Tamara Adrián

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Lawyer and professor of commercial law at the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (UCAB) and at Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV), in 2004 Adrián was the first Venezuelan citizen appealing to the Constitutional Assembly for the recognition of her identity. In spite of having a gender reassignment surgery in 2002 in Thailand she still legally has a male’s name, the name she was born with. Until today she has not received any answer on her petition yet. On 18 October 2010 Adrián postulated as judge of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice with the side objective of also “claiming transsexuals’ rights and testing the tolerance of a country with homophobic institutions”. The resolution on her postulation (she has already passed the first selection phase) will probably be public by the end of the year. She is a lesbian, a feminist, a member of the Latin American and Caribbean Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA-LAC board) and the founder of the DIVERLEX association (Difference and Equality through the Law) working for the implementation of legal measures protecting sex and gender related human rights.

From a legal point of view what is the situation of transsexuals and transgender in Venezuela?

We simply don’t exist. There exist no public politics for the recognition of one’s identity, nor for medical treatment or protection against discrimination in all fields: labour, studies, etc.

You underwent sex-reassignment surgery in 2002 but your ID still says you have a male’s name. What does this mean in your daily life?

For some day-to-day activities, like the gym or the grocery store, I use a fake ID, always letting civil servants know it is and that they can denounce me if they want to, which until now no one has. Anyway, my transsexuality is not visible so also when using my real ID people generally think that there is some mistake behind the name they see. At the same time I am a well known person in my country and that makes everything easier. But for the majority of the transsexuals in Venezuela daily life is not easy at all, that is why I am carrying out this struggle, for civil responsibility and for the respect of human rights, so other people in the future can achieve their constitutional right to the ‘self-determination’ more easily.

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Meet Raewyn Connell

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Raewyn Connell (1944), born Robert William Connell, is the most influential Australian sociologist. Her research fields go from large-scale class dynamics, poverty and education, sociology of knowledge, sexuality and AIDS prevention to social change and gender relations. Her book “Masculinities” (1995) was one of the founders of this research field. She is currently university professor at the University of Sydney.

In the ILGA Trans Secretariat’s web page it’s written that it’s a paradox that the most important intellectual of masculinity is now a woman. First of all do you feel you are a woman?

No, I don’t feel I’m a woman.  I know it.  I don’t think that’s very different from the kind of knowledge other women have (and men too, about being men).  For transsexual women, of course, the knowledge has definite complexities; yet there are gender complexities at some level in almost everyone’s life.

Do you feel you are a man?

For large parts of my life I tried to live as a man, but always with the underlying contradiction. That is the situation many transsexual women find themselves in. There is no simple resolution of that contradiction, and no outcome without serious costs – including costs to other people in our lives.  It’s not a glamorous situation and should not be romanticised.

Do you think it is necessary to belong either to one gender or the other?

No, it is not necessary for everyone to be subjectively either a man or a woman.  There are some people who try consistently to live without gender commitments.  For instance, they live in de-gendered households, have emotional or sexual relations not determined by gender, present themselves with a mixture of gender symbolism, and demand that the state not classify them in gender terms.  This is a brave project and these people have my admiration.  But their project is incredibly difficult, because gender is a massive social reality, embedded in institutions as well as personal life.   For the great majority of people, having a definite place in the gender order is a routine condition of life, a ground of everyday action.

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